Las Vegas (CNN) — A great hotel room is the foundation of an epic visit to Las Vegas.
It's where most travelers end their nights and start their days, a haven from the clinking chips and dinging slots, a refuge from the sea of humanity. Time and time again, Sin City hotel rooms set the scene for all that happens in Vegas -- whether it stays there or not. The world of Vegas hotels is always changing before our very eyes. Sure, iconic destinations are still around -- the Bellagio with its dancing fountains out front, the Venetian with its Italian marble and sunken-level suites, and the Wynn Las Vegas for room-service congee (among other high-end perks). Add to those classic options these newer boutique hotels and hotels-within-hotels. The new entries are smaller, more intimate and often swankier than their hulking counterparts. Here are our seven favorite places to stay:
1. Nobu Hotel
Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace
Courtesy Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace
Lantern-like standing lamps, live-edge wood coffee tables and artwork displaying Japanese characters combine to give this hotel-within-a-hotel a dramatically Asian flair. Celebrity chef-turned-entrepreneur Nobu Matsuhisa and interior designer David Rockwell spared no expense in renovating the former Centurion Tower inside Caesars Palace to create their first hotel, and it shows.
The luxury experience begins in the ascetic standalone lobby: Guests check-in at a modest podium and receive keys that automatically control the elevators, obviating the need for button-pushing of any kind. In the 182 rooms and suites, a special room service menu features matcha green tea waffles and yuzu soba pancakes, which aren't available anywhere else on the property.
Other benefits of staying at Nobu include access to a private lounge and fitness center and priority seating at the flagship Nobu restaurant downstairs.
Nobu Hotel, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd., S., Las Vegas, NV 89109; +1 (800) 727-4923
2. Cabana Suites
Glenn Pinkerton/Las Vegas News Bureau
Consider this hipster haven the new look for an iconic hotel in Old (read: Downtown) Vegas. That classic -- The El Cortez Hotel & Casino -- bills itself as the longest continuously running hotel and casino in town, dating all the way back to 1941. In 2009, however, owner Kenny Epstein breathed new life into the place, acquiring the former Ogden House motel across Ogden Street and converting it into the boutique-style, 64-room Cabana Suites.
To be clear, the rooms in the newer facility are not all "suites." In many cases they're just larger-than-usual accommodations, complete with large flat-screen televisions, iHome iPod docking stations and plush modern furniture. Most rooms also have at least one wall painted lime green -- a splash of color that intrigues and disarms at the same time. Considering that rates here often sink below $60, the Cabana Suites offers some of the best value anywhere in town.
3. Aria Sky Suites
Aria's sky villa offers amazing views.
Courtesy MGM Resorts International
The over-the-top experience of this uber-fancy hotel inside Aria begins moments after guests land at McCarran International Airport. First, a limousine fueled by compressed natural gas picks them up and brings them back to a dedicated hotel entrance in style. Check-in occurs inside the Sky Suites lounge, a private area that serves snacks and drinks throughout the day. Finally, a private elevator whisks guests upstairs to their suites.
Spread throughout the top floors of one of Aria's towers, the 442 suites themselves are palatial, ranging from one to three bedrooms apiece. Each suite has separate living and powder rooms, as well as a bathroom that could double as a spa. Accommodations also come standard with tablet computers through which guests can control everything from lighting to music to curtains. Sky Suites guests also get free access to an exclusive pool deck.
Aria Sky Suites, 3730 Las Vegas Blvd., S., Las Vegas, NV 89158; +1 (877) 580-2742
4. The Cromwell
Courtesy The Cromwell
As far as resort makeovers go, none in recent Vegas history has been as dramatic or exhaustive as the 2014 transformation of the staid and outdated Bill's Gamblin' Hall into this ultramodern boutique hotel.
Décor in the 188 rooms is inspired by Paris -- wallpaper is textured and red, and beds have tufted headboards. What's more, furnishings have an antique feel. The coffee table can double as a game table, and nightstands had previous lives as valises.
Technology is also a big part of the guest experience at The Cromwell. It's the first hotel in town to offer mobile key technology for digital keyless entry via smartphone. What's more, the property launched a personalized virtual concierge service in late 2016 through which guests can request reservations or in-room services by text.
All hotel guests receive free access to Drai's Beach Club, the dayclub/nightclub pool area at the top of the hotel.
The Cromwell, 3595 Las Vegas Blvd., S., Las Vegas, NV 89109; +1 (844) 426-2766
5. Oasis at Gold Spike
The retro-chic Oasis is the crown jewel of the Downtown Project, a $350-million initiative engineered by Zappos.com founder Tony Hsieh to resuscitate Downtown Las Vegas.
The early-1960s motel was converted into a boutique hotel and reopened in 2014. Today all 44 rooms have a hipster vibe, with metal furniture and turntables (there are records in the lobby). The hotel was built without closets, so rotating armoires now enable guests to stash and hang important items.
The Oasis is one of two towers at the Gold Spike, a 1970s-era casino that now doubles as a romper room for grownups, complete with shuffleboard, four-foot-tall Jenga games and pinball. Gold Spike has emerged as one of the liveliest party scenes downtown, with a live DJ spinning in the backyard Thursday through Sunday nights. The two properties are connected by an outdoor walkway.
One of the rarest amenities in Vegas is the parking at the Oasis. The hotel still has its original lot out front, which means lucky guests can park just off Las Vegas Boulevard for free. The outdoor pool also is worth a dip-if you can get in there between advertising photo shoots. The half-submerged chaise longues are stellar spots from which to spend an afternoon.
6. W Las Vegas
Sin City's newest hotel opened inside the LUX Tower at SLS Las Vegas at the end of 2016, and today the 289 rooms boast mostly white walls, white couches, white furniture and even white bedding. The vibe is bright and clean. It's also a signature look for designer Philippe Starck.
What stands out most about W Las Vegas is the hotel's attention to detail, touches you'd miss if you didn't know what to look for. In the lobby lounge, for instance, which employees refer to as the "Living Room," design firm AvroKO used old craps dice to create wall panels that double as room dividers. Near the elevators, a wall is blazoned with wallpaper that bears images of cards from the old Sahara, the hotel which SLS and W replaced earlier this decade.
Even the porte-cochère has style—a back wall shimmers with thousands of giant sequins. You can't get much more Vegas than that.
W Las Vegas, 2535 Las Vegas Blvd., S., Las Vegas, NV 89109; +1 (877) 822-0000